Clarence Harmon, the Washington Redskins' veteran running back, was released from a Texarkana, Tex., jail on $10,000 bond yesterday after having been arrested during a drug raid Wednesday night and charged with possession of cocaine.
According to Lt. Ralph Franklin of the Texarkana police department, Harmon, former Redskin Ike Forte and two other men were arrested in a Texarkana apartment. Franklin alleges the police officers allegedly found them free-basing cocaine. Free-basing refers to a method of purifying the cocaine by heating it, which returns it to its purest form and increases its potency.
Jim Hooper, a Texarkana lawyer representing Harmon and Forte, said that his clients will plead not guilty. "Clarence and Ike told me flat out that they were not free-basing, that they weren't doing anything when the police walked in," Hooper said. "This is the first time either one has been in trouble. Clarence is really upset."
According to Hooper, the process leading to trial for Harmon and Forte could take up to three months. Both men have been formally charged with possession of an illegal substance, indentified by police as cocaine.
If found guilty, they could be sentenced to prison for two to 20 years and/or be fined up to $10,000.
The Redskins, through lawyer Lawrence Lucchino, have contacted Hooper to offer assistance. General Manager Bobby Beathard, who was scouting yesterday and learned of the arrest through a newspaper story, said he preferred to reserve comment "until I find out the details." Coach Joe Gibbs was on vacation and could not be reached.
Harmon, who lives in Herndon, Va., had been vacationing in Hawaii, according to Hooper. Harmon was en route to his parents' home in Mississippi and stopped in Texarkana to visit Forte, who played with the Redskins from 1978 to 1980.
Franklin said Harmon and Forte were arrested along with two other men after being found in the apartment of one of the persons named in a series of indictments handed down Wednesday by a grand jury in Bowie County, Tex.
Harmon and Forte then were taken to the local jail, where they stayed Wednesday night until $10,000 bond for each man was posted yesterday morning. Original bond had been set by Justice of the Peace Ben Grigson at $20,000.
"Clarence is now free to go anywhere he wants," Hooper said. "He doesn't have to stay in Texarkana."
Police from both Arkansas and Texas conducted drug raids Wednesday night, ending a 12-month investigation. The Bowie County grand jury issued 38 indictments charging at least 32 persons with selling drugs. In neighboring Miller County, Ark., another 52 indictments were issued. Eighteen teams of police participated in the raids and, according to police, at least 56 persons had been arrested by yesterday afternoon. Neither Harmon nor Forte was included in the indictments handed down Wednesday.
Harmon, 27, has been with the Redskins six years. He was signed in 1977 as a rookie free agent and since then has become a valuable role player, mostly on special teams and as a third-down pass receiver. He is popular and well-respected by his teammates, who regard him as one of the unofficial captains of the special teams.
He had to struggle to win a roster spot last season, and filled in well for injured Joe Washington on passing downs. He caught 11 passes for 86 yards and ran for 168 during the regular season. In the playoffs, he caught one pass for four yards and ran nine times for 40 yards.
Forte, also a running back, did not play pro football in 1982. He was cut by the Redskins in August 1981 and signed by the New York Giants in November 1981. He played five games that season, his sixth in the NFL. He had been a star running back at Arkansas and was picked in the second round of the 1976 draft by New England.